The South African Football Association has made it clear that both the men’s and women’s Olympic football teams need to progress to the knockout stages of their respective tournaments in Rio in order to appease their expectations.
The men’s and women’s teams from South Africa managed to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games, and will be competing in Brazil, but they will not simply view the tournament as a training exercise, as they are expected to move on from the group stages as a minimum requirement.
This is due to the investment that the South African Football Association has made in both the women’s team and the men’s Under-23 squad ahead of the Olympics which will take place in August.
Around $1 million has been spent to prepare Banyana, which is the women’s team, in time for the Olympics, as they do not have a professional league that assists their preparations. An estimate of around $670,000 was invested in the preparation for the men’s side, amounting to a total investment of around $1.67 million from the FA.
For this reason South African Football Association chief executive Dennis Mumble has said that the teams will be expected to progress beyond the first round of the competition.
“We don’t want to go there and just make up the numbers. So the mandate is do well and go into the knockout stages at least,” said Mumble, according to TheSowetan.
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“For Banyana we must have spent R15-million so far because their conditions are different as opposed to the under-23s. The men play for professional clubs, so they get regular playing time. On the under-23s, we have spent between eight and R10-million,” he clarified.
Banyana will begin their Olympic campaign against Sweden on August 3, before matches against China and Brazil on August 6 and 9 respectively.
Drawn in a tough group, the South African women will have to be at their best to compete in Brazil, led by captain Janine Van Wyk. Preparations for coach Vera Pauw’s team have included matches against the Netherlands, Cameroon and Zimbabwe, with New Zealand still to come.
The women will play a friendly international match against the world champion USA women’s team this Saturday, 9 July at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Olympic warm-up match will be the first time that South Africa will play against the number one ranked American team.
For the men, preparations have included a successful title winning Cosafa Cup in Namibia which gave the team time to become acquainted, while a friendly match against Japan went the way of the Japanese with a 4-1 score line.
The South African men have been drawn in a group alongside hosts Brazil, Iraq and Denmark in Group A, and will play additional friendly matches in the lead up to the Olympic football tournament at Rio 2016.
Nigeria, South Africa and Algeria are the three teams that will travel to Rio to represent Africa in the men’s Olympic football tournament, while the two women’s teams qualified for the games are South Africa and Zimbabwe.